Dell throws down the green gauntlet, again. Fulfills carbon-neutrality pledge

When was the last time you heard about a high-tech company reaching a promised delivery date AHEAD of schedule?And, yet, that is exactly what Dell says it has done.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

When was the last time you heard about a high-tech company reaching a promised delivery date AHEAD of schedule?

And, yet, that is exactly what Dell says it has done. Last fall, it pledged to achieve carbon-neutrality by the end of 2008. Well, it's just the start of August, and the deed is done. "This is a significant step forward for our organization," says Dane Parker, Dell's global director of environment, health and safety, who chatted with me the other day about the company's achievement. "But this is not the end of the journey."

What, exactly, has Dell managed to do? And why so quickly?

For starters, Dell's investments in alternative energy have been accelerating dramatically since 2004, when it was investing in about 12 million kilowatt-hours of green power. Today, its annual investment in wind, solar and methane-gas capture electricity sources is roughly 116 million kilowatt-hours. This week's carbon-neutrality proclamation was spurred by planned additional investments in wind power in the United States, China and India for a total of 645 million kilowatt-hours, or the equivalent of 400,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide offset from the atmosphere.

Aside from purchasing from green power sources, Dell also has struck a deal with Conservation International to help preserve about 591,000 acres of tropical forestland in the Republic of Madagascar. This move will divert about 500,000 tons of carbon dioxide over the next five years, according to Dell.

I asked Parker about how Dell plans to share some of its best practices with other companies; he actually meets with about two customers every week to share insights. One tip: arranging green energy purchasing agreements is incredibly time-consuming. Apparently, there is as full-time person at Dell dedicated to this task. Parker says that Dell doesn't have a preconceived notion about what's the "best" sort of alternative energy source; that said, the majority of its current investments are in wind, which makes sense given its headquarters location in Round Rock, Texas, which is powered completely by green energy sources.

Not to take anything away from Dell's achievement, which is terrific, but this is a case where size does matter and where Dell's $61 billion or so in annual revenue (and the smaller workforce and headquarters footprint to go with that run rate) gives it a distinct advantage over rivals Hewlett-Packard (more than $104 billion) and IBM (more than $98 billion). But, I imagine those two companies have some of their own news up their sleeve, and soon. Intel is still the nation's top corporate green power purchaser, according to its Green Power Partnership ranking. Cisco Systems also has Dell beat in terms of green power purchasing volume.

More information about Dell's various energy and environmental endeavors is found at this web address or at the ReGeneration blog site.

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